I lack the power to condone or enable sin by asking about my friend’s life.
I often will allow for Q&A time after some of my talks & teachings and I consistently get one question. “How do I love someone without condoning their sin?” It’s a fair question. We should all want to be speaking the truth in love so as to give the most accurate reflection of Jesus as possible. However, it seems accurate to say that in the sexuality conversation condoning sin is the “#1 evangelical fear”. This is where we get hung up and this is often why we don’t enter into relationship and conversation easily with LGBT folks. We’re constantly torn between being the loving reflection of Jesus and feeling we need to make our values known (or God might be disappointed with us).
But what if you don’t actually have the power to condone sin? Where did we get the idea that we do? This mentality seems to set up a false power dynamic where I am elevated to a place of judge and jury. I found it interesting that the dictionary entry for “condone”, according to Merriam Webster says:
"Condone" comes from the Latin verb condonare, which means "to absolve." "Condonare" in turn combines the Latin prefix con-, indicating thoroughness, and donare, meaning "to give" or "to grant." Not surprisingly, "donare" is also the source of our words "donate" and "pardon."1
It would seem that in order to condone someone’s sin, I would need to have a certain level of power over them. The beautiful thing about this insight is that I can accept that I have no power or responsibility to give someone a pardon for anything they’ve done or are doing. It’s not in my job description. So when I’m in conversation with LGBT people and I have the fearful thought that I might be condoning someone’s sin, I gently remind myself that I don’t have the power to absolve them of their sins and I continue enjoying my discussion by encouraging and being encouraged, challenging and being challenged. It’s a very freeing experience of humility.
However, you may be saying, “But I also don’t want to appear to be giving approval”. I think this continues to expose this idea that people somehow need our approval to live the life they want to live. I know many LGBT people and not one of them has ever asked for my permission to date, have sex, or label themselves – nor should they! So if no one is asking for my approval, why do I fear I will inadvertently give it? Again, I lack power here and if I will accept that fact, I will be freed up to love, listen, and build relationship. I think many church people today would accuse Jesus of giving approval simply because he consistently hung out with those that society & religious folk steered clear of. Jesus was clearly invited and welcomed at their gatherings and I don’t think it was because he walked in and announced his belief system. I’m so thankful that Jesus modeled that unrelenting kindness, a listening ear, and genuine interest in the totality of a person’s life does not disappoint God in any way – it actually reflects Him most.
So, is there ever a time when we might be “giving approval” or “condoning”? Well, if I am asked about my belief on sexual ethics, I will certainly offer it as my belief in what the Bible says. But if out of fear, I merely tell the person what I think they want to hear then I think that is certainly giving the wrong impression and “giving approval”. However, I feel no pressure to lead with my traditional interpretation about sexuality and will be bold when there is a Holy Spirit moment and the person has invited my thoughts and feedback.
I honestly think that our fear (or feeling pressured) that God will be mad at us for condoning or giving approval has much to say about our own confidence in our relationship with God. The more that I have grown spiritually, the more I have been able to rest in the fact that God is not mad at me, even when I’ve really blown it. So WHEN I mess up in loving people, I’m confident that God is not doing a cosmic face-palm. So lose the false power that you thought you had and be freed up in the power that you DO have – to affirm someone’s existence so deeply that they have an experience with the divine love of God.
This blog is one in a series of 30+ tips for relational effectiveness with LGBT people. Find the condensed list HERE. These relational tips are from a handout acquired from “Lead Them Home”, a Boston based ministry that equips the church on LGBT issues. These blogs have been expounded upon with permission.
These tips, along with numerous other insights, are found in an excellent resource called “Guiding Families” available HERE.